2-4 players, Competitive, Space Tech-Tree Worker Placement
Designer: Dennis K. Chan
Artwork: Franz Vohwinkel
Publisher: Rio Grande Games
Release Year: 2020
Beyond the Sun came outta nowhere for me! I was minding my own business when I saw another review for the game and heard that it is a board game about working your way up a tech tree. I thought, “hmmm, THAT is one style of game that I do not yet own”, and needless to say, the idea intrigued me greatly. Thus, it was purchased and played many times! Read on to gather up some critical data on my thoughts around this one.
Overview of Gameplay
In Beyond the Sun players will be taking the standard worker placement actions of moving their respective peg to an available spot on the board, take that action and then gather some resources and play moves to the next player. As the game progresses due to these actions, new technology cards will be revealed which will open new spots to place pegs. Now, these actions will move players forward in a number of different ways such as colonizing planets on a separate board, unlocking new abilities for the players and generally increasing their supply of resources. Players will generally want to work towards the rewards on the laid out achievement cards. Every game there are two constant achievements that are the same from game to game – Colonize four planets and Reach a level four technology – and another two randomly drawn achievements that differ every game. Depending on player count whenever there are a certain number of player tokens placed upon these cards it will trigger the endgame in which players finish out the round and do one more full round then scores are tallied. Whoever has the most points based around a plethora of different things from planets colonized to how high up the tech tree you climbed etc. will win the game!
Another thing to mention is that the players personal boards are just as much a part of the overall game as the other two boards. Upon each players board there are a number of miniature dice that depict population, supply and space ships. Over time you will removed Supply dice from their respective spots to transform into population or ships depending on your actions. Ships you will utilize to move about the Exploration board to control and colonize planets. Population you will need to research technologies on the bigger Technology board and also to colonize planets. In addition, there are a couple resource tracks that house tokens for food and ore. As you control and colonize planets, you will remove these tokens to place on those planets, which will unlock more ore and more populations that you can recruit! There is a “Automation” track that these can be placed on as well through different actions and abilities. As you fill this track up you will gain more and more end game VP’s as well.
There are two main game boards that all players will be utilizing in addition to their personal player boards. The biggest board is the Technology board that houses all the tech tree cards and events. This is also where players will be moving their respective pegs around to take actions at different unlocked tech cards. The second board is the Exploration board where players will be moving their space ships around to control and colonize the different planet cards that are laid out. Finally, each players board will be worked to control your population and resources.
Component wise everything is of average quality. The cards, boards, plastic tokens/dice and the cardboard pieces are fine, nothing to go wild about. That said, the way things are used is excellent! The mini dice are awesome with how each die has a use for each of its sides. Just flip the dice to the side you need and you are golden! The player boards are all double layered to hold all the dice and tokens AND I have seen no warping in any of these boards which is a miraculous feat when it comes to double layered boards. The boards are easy to read and understand with the icons of which die face you need showing already on the board. There are four nice cardboard player reference sheets that have the turn structure and scoring on them which are super handy. Overall, component quality is nothing outstanding but the clever use of the components is outstanding.
The box is pretty thin and flimsy feeling but workable. There is also a flimsy cardboard insert that surprisingly works very well! It has spaces for all the components to be bagged up and placed and even a nifty pull tab to easily remove the player boards from their section. The box size is super thin which is great as it allows you to more easily store it. There is a tad amount of space between the box lid and the components BUT since everything is bagged up you shouldn’t have to worry about mixed components. Overall, the box and storage solution work and since the components can be bagged up per color you should only have about 6 bags, four for player components, one for plastic ore tokens and one for the cards.
Visual Appeal /Theme
The game is a little light on theme and visual appeal. I do enjoy the art of the planets on the different cards and the exploration board looks nice. The Technology board also looks pretty good with a big planet in the background and all the branching tech spaces in the foreground. The only things I would gripe about with the design are the bland white starting basic action spaces and the player boards. I wish the player boards had just a bit more color added in to make them stand out. They just look so……sterile.
The theme is also pretty bland. I’ve played the game a number of times now and still don’t really understand the overarching theme here and if there even is one. What I do know is that we are all competing factions trying to be the best of the best in technology and colonization with a nice space theme. It works though! I would love to see this exact same gameplay perhaps with a medieval theme or a horror theme. I think you could easily whip up some interesting tech tree mechanics with anything.
The rulebook is done pretty good! I think the simple gameplay lends itself to this but overall I didn’t have much trouble making my way through this one. Another helpful thing I noticed was the many pictures for the different icons in the book, which were very easy to find. There are specific sections explaining how to colonize, perform movement with your space ships etc. There is also a very nice visual component list at the front which explains each in great detail. The ONE gripe I have is how the setup instructions are completely separate from the rulebook. I found this to be very odd as it is just a double page fold outside of the regular rulebook. On one side is the setup diagram and the other side has variant setups and explanations on the advanced player boards. Just seems an odd choice to have it outside the rulebook.
Player Interaction/Fun Factor
There isn’t much player interaction other than snatching up placement spots or taking control of planets. However, this is all a particular kind of interaction where you do things to prevent the other players from doing, not any trading or discussing at all. That said, I have had SO MUCH FUN playing this game it’s almost ridiculous.
The strategies that you have at the start of the game are ever changing as new tech cards are revealed and other player’s actions are taken. You are always on your toes in this game. Starting out you kind of have an idea of what you want to work towards based on those achievement cards and as tech cards are revealed you start formulating new and exciting ways to achieve these goals in a more efficient manner. Furthermore, other player’s actions and what techs you have researched will limit what actions you actually can do on your turn. This makes the game strategic but at the same time not overwhelming as you only have a limited number of choices.
Optimal Player Count/Replayability
The scalability for player count of this game is incredible. It’s setup for a four player game out of the box but comes with some cardboard replacement tiles that can be laid over the basic action spaces to scale for player count. The Exploration board can also be flipped when playing with a lower count of players to keep the amount of spaces lower, which in turn keeps the interaction higher. Personally, I think the game works at all player counts and is equally as fun regardless. The more players, the longer the game will run as you will have to place more achievement tokens to trigger the endgame. However, I don’t think the game lacks any fun at all with less players.
Replayability is VERY high with this game due to the extensive variability. Each time you play, you will have a random setup of event cards in which some are not even used in each game. There are two different player boards for each of the four factions, a basic (which are the same for each faction) and an advanced (which differ between each faction). In essence, you have five completely different styles of player boards to choose from. The basic boards are a good learning board but I highly recommend using the advanced boards when playing otherwise. The tech cards that will be played to the board are dependent on the previous techs researched of the four different schools – Scientific, Economic, Military and Commercial. When a player draws for techs they draw until they have two cards that match the previous tech color/s/schools and picks one to place. This further increases the variability of each game and players will usually pick a tech that benefits them more going forward.
The exploration deck of cards is another thing that adds more variability to the game as the new planets that will be added to the exploration board are drawn from individual decks. These will change over the course of different games and each has a different value and power to it. In addition, on top of all that the achievement cards will differ as well to give a bit of different starting strategy to each game. I mean the amount of variability to each game is incredible and this lends itself a great deal to increased replayability.
Positive Final Thoughts
This has been one of the most fun experiences I have had in a while with a board game. The sheer amount of variability with each game makes me want to keep coming back to play again and again. Plus I’ve always loved the simple mechanic of removing a peg on your player board to gain something in return. The simple gameplay that adds even more depth as the game progresses is just awesome.
Negative Final Thoughts
I don’t really have much to say negative about this one other than a couple nitpicky things. The way the setup sheet is separate from the rulebook is kinda odd. The theme seems pasted on as you could easily take this excellent game system and paste on any other theme and it would work.
The Bottom Line
Overall, I HIGHLY recommend this one! The options are almost limitless with the variability which is HUGE in this game since the tech cards ARE the action spaces. I love the balance and how the game gradually ramps up into much more thoughtful realms as the game progresses. The advanced player boards are each unique and fun to play. I love the way the spaceship movement and colonizing works. I mean this is a game that I played once…..and immediately setup to play again. After that, I took a break to play something else…..but was thinking about this game the entire time. If that doesn’t screech The Fuzzy Llama Golden Seal of Eternal EXCELLENCE, then I don’t know what does.
The Fuzzy Llama Golden Seal of Eternal EXCELLENCE